FUTURES CONFERENCE

The 2012 School Psychology Futures Conference: Accomplishments and next steps

The conference, titled “School Psychology: Creating Our Future(s),” encompassed three broad themes: leadership, critical skills, and advocacy by school psychologists

By Susan Jamruz-Smith, Patti L. Harrison, and Jack A. Cummings

The major national and international school psychology organizations hosted the 2012 School Psychology Futures Conference during the fall of 2012. The conference was designed to provide an opportunity for school psychologists to plan their future roles in better supporting children, families, and schools. The 2012 conference, titled “School Psychology: Creating Our Future(s),” encompassed three broad themes: Leadership, Critical Skills, and Advocacy by School Psychologists. The online conference facilitated local, national, and international connections, with the goal of developing long lasting collaborations for implementing strategies for the future. By encouraging groups and individuals worldwide to examine the unique aspects of their local contexts, the distributed nature of the conference was designed to promote networking and sustainable action plans.

The mission of the 2012 School Psychology Futures Conference was to join school psychologists together to ensure children’s future academic success and mental health through the promotion of leadership, critical skills, and advocacy by school psychologists. Assuming the future of school psychology will be defined by how school psychologists collaborate at all levels, the conference engaged school psychologists at the local, regional, national and international levels to ponder issues and next steps. The Futures Conference was organized to encourage wide-spread grassroots participation, rather than a stand-alone, face-to-face meeting in which a small group of representatives got together to debate and plan the future.

Futures Conference webinars

The 2012 School Psychology Futures Conference included a series of presentations and panel presentations across several weeks. Live webinars on October 8, October 26 and November 10, 2012, created opportunities for worldwide participation and collaboration, including attendance by groups of participants at distributed sites and by individual participants through their own laptops, desktops or mobile devices. All webinars are archived for later viewing by individuals and groups.

Preregistration

We asked individuals and group host sites to pre-register in advance if they were going to attend either live or archived sessions for the three conference webinars. For groups, we asked them to estimate the number of people who would attend at their group host sites. Table 1 summarizes conference preregistration.

Live webinar attendance

See Table 1 for numbers of individual participants and groups that viewed the live conference webinars. In Table 1, the group sites are identified by whether they were hosted by a university program or at a practitioner setting. The session scheduled for Monday, October 8 attracted the most individual and group participation, while the Saturday, November 10 session drew significantly fewer.

Archived webinars

All webinar sessions are archived for viewing by groups or individuals, and many already have used the archived webinars. If you were not able to view the live sessions, we encourage you to take advantage of the archived webinars at the Futures Conference website. Each session is 90 minutes in length and includes keynote, featured, and panel presentations. Presentations available in archived conference webinars are listed in Table 2.

We hope the conference webinars will serve as a stimulus for collaborative endeavors aimed at planning for the future of school psychology. The archived webinars may be used by individuals from their home or work computers, as well as groups. For example, groups of school psychology practitioners in school districts, students and faculty in graduate programs, joint practitioner and graduate program groups, intern cohorts in school districts, state or local school psychology associations, etc., will benefit from viewing the archived webinars and holding problem-solving sessions to analyze issues in their settings and plan the future of school psychology within the local context.

To facilitate your efforts in planning for school psychology’s future, we have collected multiple resources at the Futures Conference website, including background readings, webinar presentation slides, weblinks and the Futures Conference Action Planning Handbooks.

Action planning: Next steps

We can’t stop after attending the webinars…to build the future of school psychology, we need to work together to develop a plan! To support this work, the Futures Planning Committee defined the Futures Development Model (see Figure 1) using common components within systems change. The model encapsulates a series of problem-solving stages that guide participants through a process of action planning and is implemented through the completion of the Action Planning Handbooks. There is a handbook for each of the three conference themes. The action planning activities and worksheets in the handbooks supplement the online conference webinars to support and promote sustainable change.

Groups and individuals viewing either the lived or archived sessions are encouraged to use the Futures’ Action Planning Handbooks to create futures for children, families and schools. Main activities in the handbook are:

  1. Reflect Critically about the Theme’s Description. Review and revise the conference theme’s (leadership, criticial skills, and advocacy) description for your context.

  2. Identify Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities, and Resources. In this stage, you will assess variables in your context that can support (or create barriers) to designing the future of school psychology. Strengths may help to support and promote advocacy, leadership or critical skills while challenges may act as barriers to your efforts. Resources and opportunities may provide tools and strategies to achieve your goals. The main objective in identifying resources and opportunities is to avoid reinventing the wheel — programs and interventions needed to reach your goals may already exist and be proven effective.

  3. Define your Action Plan. Steps are included in the Handbook for brainstorming evidence-based action plans, defining strategies, major activities, indicators of progress and specific outcomes.

  4. Implement and Evaluate your Action Plan. All participants are invited to engage in the systematic process through the completion of an Action Planning Handbook. Action Planning Handbooks for the Leadership, Critical Skills and Advocacy conference themes are available online.

Futures development teams

A significant next step in planning the follow-up to the Futures Conference is the creation of national and international Futures Development Teams. The purpose of the Futures Development Team will be to lead the on-going effort for change in our profession, including dissemination of information to relevant constituents. There will be three Futures Development Teams: Leadership, Critical Skills, and Advocacy. Each Futures Development Team will consist of at least one representative from each major national and international school psychology organization. The teams will be charged with creating action plans for the profession of school psychology and responsible for monitoring implementation. If you are interested in participating on a national or international Futures Development Team, contact the futures conference committee members listed at the end of the article.

Conclusion

The 2012 School Psychology Futures Conference has provided an opportunity to examine progress, current impacts and major needs related to services for children, families and schools and update school psychology’s directions for the future. Services by many school psychologists are being redefined in varying ways and because of different reasons, and our field needs continued and systematic analysis to guide our professionals. A very positive aspect of the 2012 Future’s Conference is the effective cooperation and collaboration between our school psychology organizations to identify a shared vision for our field. The futures conference webinars provide a foundation for continued discussion and planning. Action planning, described above, will promote updated strategies to develop a working agenda for the future.

2012 Futures Conference Sponsors and Planning Committee Representatives:

American Academy of School Psychology: Judith Kaufman/ American Board of School Psychology: Barbara Fischetti/ Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs: Cyndi Riccio/ Division of School Psychology (Division 16); American Psychological Association: Karen Stoiber; Student Representative: Kaleigh Bantum/ International School Psychology Association: Bill Pfohl/ National Association of School Psychologists: Amy Smith; Student Representative: Susan Jarmuz-Smith/ Society for the Study of School Psychology: Sylvia Rosenfield/Trainers of School Psychologists: Samuel Song/Planning Committee Co-Chairs: Jack Cummings and Patti Harrison